Eru, who has put away her fan and is looking much more like the westerner she is, makes a pained face at Azami's tone, but speaks evenly. "If Madame Curator wishes to accompany me, she certainly may." the young elf rolls her eyes. "Ay me, now I'm talking like I'm still in a tea party. Ugh. You can come, Tokine, but it'll be a bit before we head out. Gwen and Naradil will be rounding up recruits to help. There is...much unpleasantness down there, as we all have heard." With that the princess and her servant -- Shoto Asago -- start down the street towards the Inn of the Graces.
The princess bows and finally drops her fan to chest height in a more relaxed position. "I thank the noble advisor for both his attention and his advice." she says, her voice fluid and pleasant to the ear. "It is true I was...taken aback by the appearance of our new guest. I...knew him in a...previous...incarnation. I did not expect ever to see him again, much less like this. Thus far he has not recognized me, which I find passing strange, but which I will not question."
@Chu: Eru looks pained, but Asago whispers something to her and she nods. Rising gracefully but leaving her fan in front of her face, she nods to you and steps outside, making sure to stay under cover and out of the rain. Asago, you note, remains inside.
"Lord Kage, how may I assist you?" the princess bows.
Eru raised her fan a little higher the moment Baslav walked in, and has kept it up in a secretive, 'shy maiko' position the entire time. Her elven eyes, already larger than human eyes, are positively huge viewed over the edge of the fan.
DC19 Sense Motive:
Eru is totally freaking out about something right now.
Eru turns ash-white. "I have seen this before." she says in a hushed and reverent voice. "Not this...this movement, but this artwork. My House has two pairs of paintings like these, and we know where the third is to each triptych, and are engaged in trying to purchase them! One is in the fair City of Arts, Manacapuru, which sits on the Mana river at the end of the falls. The other is in a...um...private collection."
DC 18 Sense Motive:
There is much more to the story behind the "private collection" comment, obviously.
Erudima nods graciously. "I thank you all for your concern and offers of assistance, whatever thoughts or resources you send are welcome." She pulls a fan out of her sleeve and gracefully slides it open. The positioning of her arms is Shoto carriage, to be sure, and meant as a clear compliment to the House of her host, but her hand position and the placement of the fan at neck level is classic clan Sera form. Apparently Aki-chan also taught the young princess some lessons of actual value when she was forcing her to wear questionable clothes.
"I will certainly seek whatever assistance I can." she says, the fan moving gently, "Gwen and Naradil are great warriors, but they are Gorumites, and their bloodlust and overconfidence will be their undoing in this endeavor unless they are properly guided."
Eru takes several moments to savor the bouquet and liquor of her tea, then takes a single gentle sip. Pleasure is plain on her face. She opens her eyes and speaks. "I hear a great actor will be giving a reading tonight at the State Dinner, I should very much like to see that. Have any of you witnessed one of Toshiro-san's performances before?" The princess asks politely.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (15) + 12 = 27
Eru bows deeply. "Again, I am sorry. There is indeed much to discuss, I...I have much on my mind..." She trails off absently. Shoto Asago gently touches her elbow and the coltish elf gives a distracted smile and moves to take her seat. With Asago-san close behind she lightly steps over and sits down in one graceful and perfect maneuver, the product of years of noble upbringing. The ways of Mamban may be different from the ways of Lanzhu, but High breeding is High breeding, and certain manners and customs carry from culture to culture with nothing lost in translation; a certain grace is one of them.
"Please do begin. Rhon and the others...will not be joining us."
@In The Temple: Eru ceases to play, and the Temple is deathly silent. The air stinks vaguely of the tang of burnt ozone. "The oldest legend in Mamban is that the Center City is the only surviving civilization that dates back before the time of Khoda, and Kalaroth the Dragon God. My mother tells the story of Norgorber abandoning the other gods in their time of need to protect his only city, leaving them with no one to strike the killing stroke against the renegade gods, forcing them instead to simply imprison and banish them, solutions not one of them accepted wholly, but which all were too wise to go against. When the gods confronted Norgorber later, they realized that if he had not done what he did, many races would have ceased to exist. His position has been tenuous ever since, not that one would think he cares..."
The princess, who is seated behind Azami, is looking at the crimson-haired gaijin with something not unlike tenderness. "The scholars of my House say this is why the Center City is so powerful; it is so old, and contains relics from the world before the world began, relics that exist in their own space and time, or are fixed in time. Wonders and horrors Kalaroth's minions built and Khoda gave power." She sighs. "But then, I am too young to have studied these topics fully, and my brothers would always wink and mock when mom told these stories; they knew how much I loved them and told me they were just stories. And...I have no way, yet, to disprove them. The Center City does not divulge its secrets with ease, if it does at all."
The princess, suddenly looking very, very young and out of her depth, nods. Her eyes are wide then as she once again addresses you all.
"This morning Rhon and I took breakfast tea service with Imuri-san, and while imperial manners and motivations may forever remain opaque to my western sensibilities, I feel I understood some of what drove him to host us, and the Black Dragonflight after. Through certain means, I know that meeting was every bit as formal and neutral as ours. What I take away from this is that the empire is truly first in his heart. If working with...well, questionable sorts of people will further his aim of protecting the empire, I believe he would do it, and as honorably as possible."
Blushing furiously for no particular reason anyone can discern she looks apologetically at Azami. "I-I'm sorry. I don't know if that assuages what you feel at all."
Speaking again to the group, she continues. "There is something Sera Zhongyi told me during elevenses a couple days ago. She intimated that she was taking lessons in military strategy from a great general, a true guru who now lives alone in the mountains to the north. She told me that the guru was pensive lately, and spent an overlong time telling her about a northern device called a matroshka. It is a...a thing-within-a-thing-within-a-thing, as she described it. She said that it had something to do with the visitors, but didn't know for sure what. I think I might have a guess. I think...that everything the Black Dragonflight is doing here is a ruse. I don't think they care about the Empire joining them or not. I think they came here just to tease out your defenses, and that while it may look as if they were trying to appear as saviors -- which I think they are, but I think this is more their aim -- I think really that what they are doing is seeing how quickly the city reacts, how powerful the internal and external defenses are, what kind of forces you can marshal at short notice. A ruse-within-a-ruse-within-a-ruse. I think that you will be attacked, and soon."
"I, at the very least, will be attending the State Dinners tonight and tomorrow. I...have to see how this ends. Good day to you all. We are staying at the Inn of the Graces if you wish to speak with us, though I will of course be coming back to this...beautiful, beautiful temple as soon as I can to look at all the other artifacts, and, well, to see if the painting is completed." Eru blushes at her own forwardness, then bows politely.
Yohei perks up at Tokine's mention of food and drink, "Hey, that sounds great!" he exclaims with a wide grin. As the Curator walks away and he is left with a table full of foreigners and a closed-lipped Xorn, he turns to the princess and winks, "So, how are you liking the Empire so far Princess?"
"Oh, Yohei, thank you so much for asking!" she favors you with a smile like a glorious sunrise. You can tell she's gonna be a heartbreaker when she gets out of elf teenage-dom. "I think the Empire is beautiful. The manners and, um, what's the word...'ceremonies?' aren't too much more ridiculous than back home, and the people are so nice!" Eru gestures towards the now-open door, and a destructively beautiful young woman in a close-fitting but still quite tasteful kimono has appeared at the door. You can tell two things by how she looks and her mode of dress:1.) She is a native of the Empire
2.) She is a member of Clan Shoto
"This is my new servant Shoto Asago." Says Eru with obvious pride. "She's an amazing musician! So much passion. Noble Shoto Imuri gave her to me as a gift. Isn't she beautiful?! Such poise! Her name means 'flower."
At the temple:
"This is just like what we saw, Rhon, you were right. Just like the one you brought, only of a different activity. So amazing..." the princes trails off.
Shaking herself clear of the painting, Erudima looks at Tokine. "Madame Curator, if...if it's not too much trouble, I have a new servant who is a fine musician. Would it be possible if she played while your artist painted my vision? And also, maybe when Azami returns, she could tell of her dream, too, and they could be combined." She pauses for a moment. "I...I do hope I'm not being too forward."
At the Shoto City House:
When Asago's hips brush Eru's shoulder the young elf looks startled, then smiles up at the musician. It is a friendly smile, but also clearly one from a noble to a servant. The princess is still obviously quite enamored with Asago, but is no longer stealing glances at her. It's as if now she knows she will be able to have rather a lot more time with the musician, and as such is not as concerned about getting every last possible look she can.
Shoto Imuri wrote:
So...where is your dragon, Princess? Is it this Kyras Edoral?
Eru looks confused. "Kyras? My…dragon? I'm sorry Imuri-san, but I do not follow you… As for the Black Dragonflight, well, I understand your position, and while I was hoping maybe to convince the Empire to not even consider the Black Dragonflight's offer, to simply look out for their own interests, I believe now I miscalculated, and that those two things are mutually exclusive. In other words, you and other peers of this realm would never consider 'looking out for your own interests' to include a complete disregard for a potential ally's offer."
Keep in mind Eru and Kyras haven't met yet. That won't occur until after Rhon and Eru leave your company.
Earlier, at the Shoto City House:"What's the flute player's name, Shoto Imuri-san? Does she live here? I should like very much to meet with her later, if that is at all possible. I should like to have tea with her if I may." Eru continues to gaze dreamily at the flautist. The princess then says, without turning her eyes from the lovely musician; "Will you meet with Na-Perinel, Imuri-san? The silver dragon who has traveled with the paladine and clerics from Lesotho and Izmir? Who speak tomorrow night?"
"It is as you say, Imuri-san. I am not here in my official capacity as a representative of my house, so am not empowered to speak for the Matron, or any of the others, and can write no treaties or entrust any interests." Here she favors you with a smile that settles on you like a ton of bricks. "I can, however, speak most highly of the great Clan Shoto, and...'suggest' that we open negotiations with them, and broaden our trade with the good people of the empire." She looks back at the now-silent flautist, but still speaks to you. "I thank you for the lessons. All of them. They are greatly appreciated, and I will speak with Zhongyi and Aki before I leave."
At the Shoto city house, earlier:
Craning her neck around to watch the flautist, Eru gazes at her like a girl smitten by a noble boy or celebrity of the opera stage. Just after the silence, and before Imuri begins again to speak, she sighs and breathes "Gosh she's beautiful. Your house is blessed, Imuri-san, to have so much talent and beauty" - she indicates the whole house, but is still admiring the musician - "here under one roof."
Shoto Imuri wrote:
A means of knowing to what extent you can count on my family should we strike a bargain.
Erudima raises one perfectly arched eyebrow. "...Bargain?" she asks innocuously.
Eru looks at Azami. "In my vision -- which was a waking vision, experienced in Solku after a morning's meditation with Lady Cynore -- there was indeed a feeling of health, of hope, of being cleansed and renewed, of having a blank slate. I have been trying very hard to discern its meaning. I thought for sure the Empire was involved somehow. The silver in my vision reminded me of the veins of silvery metal that live in the rock in some of the mountains out here -- mithral, adamantine, silver, ore, others..."
Shoto Imuri wrote:
"...the suggestion that the Princess wear an open kimono to high court."
Eru had just taken a nice and full sip when Imuri let this bomb drop, and she suddenly swallows wrong and coughs and splutters, setting her cup down in a hurry and apologizing through her coughs. Presently, she regains her composure and smile sheepishly.
"Point well taken, Shoto Imuri." she says with a respectful bow.
"I thank you, Imuri-san, this is an honor, and it is interesting to see how the different houses perform their tea services, as opposed to the emperor, and the merchants, and the generals. Captain Takagami had rather an entertaining ceremony involving an archer." She giggles girlishly, remembering something. She pays only moderate attention to the motions involved in the ritual, her eyes still darting about the room and appreciating the details there. When her cup is full, she takes her time smelling the tea, closing her eyes and concentrating, clearly enjoying every second of it.
As her question hangs in the air for everyone to consider, Eru looks at Yohei. She angles her head quizzically, and some of her platinum hair falls over her eyes. "Yohei. Hello. I'm Eru. You remind me of...you know, are you from Mamban, too? Like Ros-I mean, Azami? You look like one of the Shadowborn, a little bit."
"Portnoy!" Eru says, looking at Azami a little shocked. "That's why I know you. You were Gregor's daughter, no? *sigh* I always envied you. You were so lucky, you always got to go places..." She then brings herself up short as the last part of Azami's statement sinks in. "Wait. Your dream...my vision...they're...they're the same! But how can that be?!" She looks helplessly at Rhon, then at Tokine. "What does this mean?"
Erudima looks confused when Azami says her name. "Oh! Oh. I'm sorry...you...you look very much like someone I've seen before. Where are you orginally from, if I may ask? I really don't mean to pry, it's just...this is my first time really away from home, from Mamban, and to see a familiar face is both strange and comforting for me." Eru's look has changed to that of one who is well-acquainted with homesickness, and her eyes are almost a bit pleading as she looks at the flinty-eyed palace guard across the table.
Azami Ito wrote:
"Not my usual dream. Of the sunrise." At the last, she looks directly to Erudima.
Eru looks stunned. "You dream of the sunrise? How so? How does the dream unfold?"
"Thank you, Nagano-sama. It is a great honor that you have offered to have someone paint my vision for me, in truth I...I am still very new to this, um, 'level'...of faith, I guess? It is only recently I was touched by Sarenrae, after a harrowing experience with Rhon and others on the Isla des las Mil Voces. I hope to be a paladin someday, there is much I can do in the world, especially given my family's resources."
She turns to San Pen. "And thank you, master xorn, for your support at the State Dinner yesterday. I am new to that level of, ah, responsibility...as well."
Azami, DC10 Sense Motive:
She keeps looking at you out of the corner of her eyes, giving you sidelong glances, but then looking away before you can quite catch her in the act.